Thread Theory

Welcome to the new era of menswear sewing. Go ahead and create something exceptional!


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The Story of A Vintage Dior Suit

Thread Theory Dior Suit (1 of 15) Ever since I posted about David Coffin’s Shirtmaking Workbook and the beautiful (and inspiring!) photos of RTW garments within it, I’ve been thinking about photographing the garments I have on hand to analyze.  I’m hoping you can help me examine this vintage piece – it’s a Dior suit which was handed down to us by Matt’s Dad.  He is on vacation right now otherwise I would ask him for a more detailed story about its origins.  Maybe that can be a follow up post in a couple of weeks after we’ve had a chance to make up our own story for the suit!

As you can see, the suit is cut from a beautiful thick navy wool with a subtle white pinstripe…

Thread Theory Dior Suit (4 of 15)

It is a far thicker wool than I see in many modern suits which makes it very striking but also not that easy to wear.  It would really only work if you knew you were going to be in a pretty cold environment all day – I pity any man who ever tried to wear it to a winter wedding because as soon as he walked into the heated dining room he probably greatly regretted his decision!

Thread Theory Dior Suit (6 of 15)

The lining is clearly labelled with the Dior logo and is a lovely rich burgundy.  It looks to me to be silk.

Thread Theory Dior Suit (7 of 15)

The pants are lined with a thicker material that I would probably use for something heavy duty such as a Goldstream Peacoat.  There is no chance of getting a nice cooling breeze through the legs while wearing these!

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On one front panel a Dior label is stitched to the inner welt pocket.

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On the other front panel, a label is sewn to the welt pocket that states, “Tailored by Hart Schaffner & Marx,” with an embroidered bugle player, and below, “Raleighs.”

Thread Theory Dior Suit (10 of 15)

The suit has been tailored to fit someone very close to Matt’s size which is quite the thrill!  Despite the garment likely being at least a few decades old, Matt feels really slick and timeless while wearing it.  The pants are conservatively slim and straight (they aren’t ’70s bell bottoms and they aren’t ’60s super slim fit).

Thread Theory Dior Suit (9 of 15)

The vest has quite a few buttons which maybe makes it look slightly dated.  Matt looks excellent in it though – he’s a vest kind of guy (maybe I’ll show you a picture of him all dressed up next time I post about this!).

Thread Theory Dior Suit (8 of 15)

The crowning glory is the suit jacket though – it is such a conservative and timeless style that I don’t think anyone would guess that Matt is wearing a vintage piece.  The arms sadly fit a bit short for Matt but this is a common occurrence with any suit jacket for him.

Thread Theory Dior Suit (2 of 15)

Thread Theory Dior Suit (5 of 15)

I love the beautifully sewn details such as the felt undercollar…

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Thread Theory Dior Suit (13 of 15)

…and the beautifully finished pant waistband and fly…

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So…can you guess this suit’s story?  How old do you think it is?


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Giveaway Winner and Shirt Pattern Research

Corrupt Gentleman Shirts

(Click on images in post to be directed to their source)

Wow, thanks everyone for your very thoughtful and detailed comments on my blog post last week!  We ended up reaching 123 comments, 122 which were entries for the giveaway of David Coffin’s Shirtmaking Workbook.  I drew the winner today using a random number generator and am pleased to announce that Bechem, hailing from Australia, will be receiving the book in the mail shortly!  Here is the comment that she posted:

So exciting Thread Theory was included in this amazing book! I would be sewing for my husband, who wears a size 41 shirt here in Australia. While he does wear business shirts for work, if I were to sew him a shirt it would a more “smart casual” style for weekends, etc. I’d love to see a slim fitting shirt with long sleeves (and sleeve tabs to roll up). A 2-part collar, as well. Modern & trendy & the perfect shirt to go with his Jedediah shorts 🙂

Even if you didn’t win David’s book, I highly recommend checking it out in whatever format you most prefer (be it from the library, from you local book shop, on Amazon, or from a friend!).  After all, you might be wanting to use it when you go to sew our upcoming button-up shirt pattern that we (and you!) are very excited about!

Just to be clear after all of last week’s excitement, our shirt pattern is still in the very early stages of production so please don’t hold your breath or switch up your sewing plans while you wait for it’s release!  I hope to have it ready for late Fall this year but this is certainly not a deadline because I want to continue to work on perfecting it as much as possible and will only release it to you guys when I feel that it is ready.

I’ve been sifting through all of your comments and have been unearthing some very interesting commonalities.  I made a big chart and tallied various themes.  I thought you might like to see some of the trends that emerged in your shirt design requests:

Fit

The large majority of commenters are looking for a fairly slim fit shirt (but not overly fitted).  A good number of people are hoping the shirt will include options for two levels of fit – one with a looser back and one with a more fitted back.

I VERY much appreciated hearing what your specific fit issues are.  The majority of the comments mentioned struggling with arm length when buying RTW shirts.  Clearly it will be necessary to include lengthen and shorten lines as per usual and also a detailed section within the instructions on how to figure out what length of sleeve and body you need.Frank and Oak Oxford

Many commenters struggle with fitting tricky areas such as the neck, shoulders and belly.  Men who work out often tend to develop large necks and shoulders but require a more fitted waist which can be tricky to find in store bought shirts.  As men age, it is common to develop a little bit of a belly.  Men who prefer slim fit shirts will need to have the shirt adjusted to allow for their mid-section.

It is very clear that there are a large size range of men waiting for custom sewn shirts.  I will do my best to include as large a range as possible without making an overwhelming nest of size lines during grading!  I wonder if it would be a good idea to include the very largest and very smallest sizes only in our PDF patterns.  This way we can offer an increased size range for digital customers.  We are often limited in our size range due to the size and weight of the tissue paper in our printed patterns.

Design Features

It was almost unanimous that you are looking for a shirt with a collar stand and a proper tower or house placket on the sleeves.  Don’t worry, these features will most definitely be included!  I will be putting a large emphasis on writing and illustrating clear instructions for these portions of the shirt and will of course do a photographed sew-along.

Band Collar - J Crew

When it came to collar and cuff options, I was quite surprised to see how popular mandarin/band/grandad collars are and also how many of you would like the option for French Cuffs.  I’m glad that you let me know this because, while I had originally had these two features on my list of design options that I wanted to include, I had been thinking of removing them…but I won’t do so now that I know that you would like them included!

Thanks, also, to those who mentioned they would like the option for sleeve tabs so that long sleeves can be rolled up and to those who would like the option for short sleeves.  I wasn’t sure how commonly these design elements would be sewn but it seems they are requested enough to warrant including them.

Many of you mentioned that you would like to sew the button-up in some sort of flannel/plaid.  This is a great idea and I think it would be nice to include instructions for cutting out plaid either within the instruction booklet or at least as a tutorial on the blog.

I need to do a bit more thinking about what pocket styles and yoke styles I would like to include.  I am partial to simple pockets and a nice medium size yoke with a straight bottom but it seems that quite a few of you are looking for a bit more flare!  More pocket and yoke options would be an interesting thing to include as a separate download from the pattern if we end up having an overwhelming number of pattern pieces included within the main pattern.

Lastly, when it comes to design/fit, there is no consensus on how the back of the shirt should be shaped.  I had been intending to shape the back with a small centre pleat for a very nice middle ground between slim fit and comfortable (erring towards slim fit).  Some of you mentioned that you prefer darts on the back.  I  had been hoping to avoid these because they limit fabric options considerably (stripes and plaids wouldn’t look so great with darts) and I worry that darts are a bit too “Euro-fit” to please the majority of people.  After reading your comments though, I wonder if it would be worth including a seperate back piece without any pleat and with darts instead…hmm, that’s a tough decision.

PLEATS

 

Thank you very much for your feedback!  Please feel free to keep commenting with your shirt pattern requests as I have been really enjoying feeling as though I am working with a big team of you rather than working to design the pattern in my isolated office while I worry away about what it is you actually want in the pattern :P.


131 Comments

The Shirtmaking Workbook – Our feature and a giveaway! (Giveaway closed 24/07/15)

Shirtmaking Workbook review (1 of 1)

Quite likely, if you are interested in sewing menswear, you will have heard of David Coffin by now.  If you haven’t you will likely want to find out about him!  He is the author several books that could be considered essential resources within a menswear sewing library (or any sewing library for that matter).  Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing and Making Trousers for Men & Women: A Multimedia Sewing Workshop are both filled with excellent construction guides.  His newest book, which was just published this Spring, is called The Shirtmaking Workbook: Pattern, Design, and Construction Resources.  David has taken a different approach to this volume on shirtmaking and has focused much of this book on design through the manipulation of pattern blocks.  While you would find his first book on shirtmaking to be very useful during the actual construction process of a button-up shirt, you would likely use his newest book as a reference and as inspiration during the planning process of your projects.

Shirtmaking Workbook (1 of 15)

David interviewed me well over a year ago during his research for the book and included a segment of this interview within the hardcopy book under the “Featured Designer” sections included within each chapter.  I was very flattered to be included amidst some extremely talented designers and tailors – how exciting!  Once the book was published, we were sent two copies – one which I’ve happily added to my library and one that I will be giving away to you!  (See details on the giveaway at the end of this post.)Shirtmaking Workbook (6 of 15)

I have come across several extensive reviews of The Shirtmaking Workbook since it’s publication date.  Be sure to check these ones out:

Instead of reviewing the book completely, I’d like to talk about how I have been using this book within my studio and show you how it has been helping me as we begin the development of our upcoming menswear button-up shirt pattern (yay!).

In order to become acquainted with the book when I first received it, I took it as my only reading material on a camping trip and read it systematically from cover to cover.  For this kind of book, this style of reading is just enough to glean some of the basic information – this book certainly warrants an in-depth, hands on approach!  For example, throughout the book there are symbols indicating online content that accompany each piece of written info.  While not all of this online content is available yet (the book was published earlier than expected), David is working doggedly on assembling it.  During my first reading I familiarized myself with David’s approach to shirt patterns (he works with basic blocks that he manipulates into any style imaginable) and made note of what online content I might find interesting to explore right away.  I enjoyed the beautiful detail shots of ready-made garments that are profiled throughout the book to illustrate how certain collar styles, construction techniques and placket varieties can be integrated into shirt designs.  I carefully read the designer bios and, lastly, checked through the construction and pattern manipulation tips to see how they compare to my own practices.

Shirtmaking Workbook (15 of 15)

My second reading of the book is going to need to be far more hands on.  The book focuses a lot on the huge variety of collars and plackets that can be added to basic shirt blocks to create every design imaginable.  David has created full size collar and placket pattern pieces for every style that he discusses within the book.  These patterns are accessible online along with relevant construction information.  Once you have found the blocks that work best for you (David describes various approaches to doing this – one great one is to find your favorite existing pattern and simply use the main body pieces while switching out the collar, placket, pockets and any other design details whenever you want to achieve a new style of top), you can use these online pattern pieces to create your own shirt designs.  While I won’t be using David’s pattern pieces for our shirt pattern obviously, I look forward to examining their shapes and comparing the various collars to each other as a way of researching my preferences for our patterns.  I have found the section on dress collars to be especially helpful – David has systematically compared the subtle shape changes to the collar stand, undercollar and collar and explains how these three pieces relate to each other in a way that is far more straight forward than I have ever seen before!  He calls this “Dress Collar Geometry” and discusses the results of each pattern manipulation “experiment” very frankly and scientifically.  In order to fully assimilate all of this information I think it might be necessary for me to perform at least some of these experiments on my own while following along with the book – David recommends this hands on approach and I know, from my own experience, that this is the only way I will retain all of the information permanently!

Shirtmaking Workbook (8 of 15)

The third way that I hope to use this book is as a design inspiration reference.  David has used the book research process as an excuse to get his hands on all manner of vintage and designer garments so that he could photograph and analyze them.  Since I don’t have the funds (or closet space!) to gather my own library of inspiration garments, I’m excited to be able to flip through the photos within this book and online whenever I am curious about ready to wear designer finishing techniques or fabric choices.  Would you like to see what the inside of a Swanndri Wool Bush Shirt looks like or would you like to examine the ingenious double layered sleeve of a Filson Double Mackinaw Cruiser?  I have wanted to for years now!  David’s photos and accompanying text tour are almost as nice as having these elite garments at my sewing table to examine on my own.Shirtmaking Workbook (12 of 15)

Shirtmaking Workbook (14 of 15)

 

Now that I’ve told you how I plan to use this book, I better get busy actually using it!  I’ve downloaded a few of the collar varieties and look forward to comparing them with our own freshly drafted shirt collar today!

 


 

 

If you are interested in winning your own copy of The Shirtmaking Workbook, leave a comment below.  In your comment, I’d love for you to answer one of these questions to help me with my menswear button-up shirt pattern development:

  • What style and fit are you looking for in a menswear shirt pattern?
  • There are several men’s button-up shirt patterns already on the market.  What elements are not included in them that you would like to see in a shirt pattern (A certain collar style? A certain placket style?  A certain fit? A certain level of detail within the instructions)?
  • Who do you plan to sew button-up shirts for? (i.e. the person’s approximate age, their approximate body shape/size, or their style preferences)

No need to answer all of these questions or to write an essay!  I’d just love to hear your thoughts on menswear shirt patterns.  The giveaway will close on 9am (PST) Friday, July 24th.  A winner will be chosen at random from the comments on this blog post.  We will mail the book worldwide!

 


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While on my staycation…

Staycation (20 of 24)Thanks for your patience while I’ve been MIA on our moving stay-cation!  I ended up giving myself an entire week from Sunday June 28th onwards screen free.  It was so nice to settle into enjoying our new home and studio without the distractions of the internet and emails in particular!  I even removed Instagram from my phone temporarily and refrained from texting as much as possible.  When I turned everything on again a week later I was surprised to find that I hadn’t missed checking Facebook or Instagram at all.  On the other hand, it felt really great to catch up on Thread Theory and personal emails this week.  If you had asked me at the beginning of my vacation, I would have told you I was dreading returning to emails and would greatly miss Instagram…very strange…

It was wonderful to come back from our staycation to find that our holiday sale was a huge success!  I spent all of last Monday packing orders and spent most of Tuesday catching up on emails.  I’m still trying to catch up on a few small things and, while I have most of our Thread Theory boxes unpacked, I have quite a bit more organizing to do in the studio.  I’ll keep puttering on this over the weekend and will be ready to launch into developing more patterns starting on this coming Monday.  Exciting!

We are loving our new house and yard.  The house we are renting is on two acres with many old fruit trees which I have been marveling at daily as the fruit grows.  My family and Matt’s family have both been spending lots of time here helping us get settled in.  Here are a few photos from my week long stay-cation and of the new studio!

Priority number one was creating a fenced side yard for our dog, Luki.Staycation (5 of 24)He happily spends most of his day out there basking in the sun and watching the horse in the neighbor’s paddock.

Staycation (3 of 24)

Of course, as far as priorities go, the Thread Theory office and sewing room were not far behind our fence building efforts!  My friend Nicole helped me set up the majority of the sewing room and I spent a few hot afternoons tucked away in my nice cool office getting things sorted.

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Last weekend I tore myself away from my unpacking to spend a hot but very enjoyable weekend with my family riding around the Cowichan Valley on a bike tour of the many vineyards

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The Cowichan Valley is a couple hours south of us on Vancouver Island.  The ride was in support of the MS society and was a pretty big accomplishment for us considering the extreme heat we were riding in!

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We rode approximately 53 or 54 kilometers the first day and 33 kilometers the second day. on our second day, we were riding under eerily orange skies and falling ash due to the huge wildfires that have been burning all over British Columbia.

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Matt and I planned a house warming party that took place this Wednesday.  Matt’s parents arrived on Sunday to visit and help us host the party but, just as they arrived and as I got home from my weekend bike ride, Matt was called out to fight his very first wildfire! He has been away in Sprout Lake (fairly near where I had been biking) ever since.  I just heard word that he will be arriving home safe and sound this evening!

Even without Matt around, his parents and I got lots of work done on the property this last week, including building a gate for Luki’s fenced area (Rick built it with old cedar from on the property!).

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Matt was greatly missed at the housewarming party (and throughout the week in the Thread Theory studio).

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All the guests are gone now and things are settling down to normal routines.  I look forward to updating you as I continue to work on setting up my studio space and, of course, I can’t wait to complete our next two patterns!